I had an excellent phone conversation tonight, discussing the approach I took to making the documentary and some of the changes in myself and the process that occurred over the four years. My counterpart mentioned, as an aside, a conversation he himself had had with another person who responded to my name in a less-than-positive manner.
The salient phrase here is “Jason Scott is a Michael Moore.”
I have a few moments during this render of the Fidonet episode, so let me just make a quick statement, a blanket one, about this sort of thing, because I expect it to grow as an actual documentary hits the world.
During the time that I’ve been working on this project, Michael Moore has put out two documentaries, one an Oscar winner, both representing the top two documentaries (in terms of box office) in history. In making them, he has brought to bear a lot of attention, ink, and discussion about the subjects he covers, and of course the way he covers them. He has also brought in a lot of criticism and commentary on the documentary genre as a whole.
His name has also been consistently fashioned as a shorthand cultural term for a number of complex concepts: the range of truth in documentary, the nature of political agenda, the role of filmmaker in political life, and so on. A lot of it is generally used negatively or at least the most memorable writing is.
When you make a film of any sort, truth or fiction, you are taking reality, some sort of lived life or representation of it, and cleaving it towards an intended timeline, one of the length of this film. It’s why they had to make cards that said “two years later….” or add narration to the beginning of a movie so you knew what was going on. This is normally quite expected and understood, unless you personally have an investment in the subject matter or the building blocks of the production. Then things take on a different shape.
In making this documentary, I have chosen a relatively obscure subject: BBSes. I have approached it in a rather overreaching manner, where I interviewed an awful lot of people, collected a very large amount of data and artifacts, and spoke to literally thousands about it. It is, therefore, a pretty friggin’ huge thing.
I am, at the end of the day, a single person, driven with his own goals, his own approaches, and his own talents applied to the project. If another person did this, they would have done it differently. Not many folks would drive one thousand miles in a single day to interview a creator of PC-Board. Very few would track down over 700 BBS program histories, just to get a sense of them. And I don’t know how many would have considered conducting over 200 interviews about the subject.
Maybe their film would be better, more focused. Or maybe it would be so short and light that there would be nothing of note for anyone. I don’t know.
When you put your line in the sand, and say “I’m going to cover this subject, because nobody else has in this way”, some people are going to go “finally”, some people are going to go “whatever”, and some people are going to go “the hell you are”. There’s a lot more people in the middle than in the two ends.
Make no mistake, I have gotten hate mail for this project. I have certainly recieved criticism, threats, slanderous implications, and all the glory that the world can shove in my door, telephone and e-mail account.
This is not unfair, not below talking about, not surprising: it’s the cost of living in the world, of creating something that claims to tell a story or be in any way based on factual information. It’s just what happens. It tells me the subject holds passion for people, that they care how their story gets told, and by whom. I would be surprised if I didn’t get any over time.
Some criticisms are valid. Some are not. But they come from an honest place.
I get fan mail. I get a lot of fan mail. I get several a day, praising some aspect of this work or the work I’m doing. If I want to reach out into the world and get validation for what this is all about, I have it, sometimes every hour on the hour. I enjoy getting it, I enjoy reading it, and it’s also a part of putting your line in the sand.
This project is self-created and basically self-funded (I was sent no-strings-attached money from several folks “just for doing this”, including one very generous multi-thousand dollar donation from a gentleman named Frank Segler). I did not do it on spec, I did not do it as my job, and I certainly didn’t do it in a way that someone told me to or where I didn’t have final say on all aspects of the production. The project is mine, fully mine. At the end of the road, I will be able to point to this DVD set and say that the way it soars or the way it flops is the result of my actions. I will have no-one else to blame (but plenty of folks to praise).
I will stand behind it 100 percent, I will gladly discuss my choices made in editing, subject matter, approach, interviewees and worthiness. Some of my answers will suck, talking about scheduling, missing opportunities, or broken appointments. But I will be talking for myself, knowing it all rests on me. And I will do so. Freely, often, and everywhere people corner me, either on a forum, at a bar in a convention hotel, or in a phone call. And I will be proud to do so.
So let’s get this show on the road.
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